James Deiparine’s homecoming was finally fulfilled after winning the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Unsuccessful in his first try in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he won two silver medals, the 26-year old Filipino-American swimmer accomplished what he promised to his grandparents when they were still alive.
“When I was six years old, my grandparents told me to never forget where I came from,” said Deiparine, a product of California Polytechnic State University.
“And this win is for them because they’re no longer with us.”
Deiparine’s gold-medal performance in the 100-meter breaststroke finals last week ended the country’s 10-year gold-medal drought in the 11-nation conclave.
The last time the Philippine team won gold medals in the biennial meet was in 2009 courtesy of Daniel Coakley in 50-meter freestyle, Ryan Arabejo in 1500-meter freestyle and Miguel Molina in 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley.
For Deiparine, it was a vindication for him as he missed out that chance in the previous staging of the Games.
And what made it even more special was his fact that his family and 14 relatives, who flew from the United States, were at the sidelines to witness such momentous occasion.
“I’m speechless,” said Deiparine, whose training was supported by the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) under president Lani Velasco, the Philippine Sports Commission under chairman William Ramirez and some private donors like Alaska team owner Wilfred Uytengsu.
“This is the ultimate goal, competing at home and giving my best of bringing home the gold,” he added.
For Velasco, the triumph of Deiparine was the triumph of Philippine swimming, which became stagnant for a decade due to leadership squabbles.
She hopes that the 30th edition of SEA Games would be the rebirth of swimming in the country.
“Very inspiring. I think everybody, all the swimmers of the Philippines are now inspired and will want to get more gold medals,” Velasco said.
“I think next year you will be more surprised with our athletes in the grassroots level. We have a lot of age groupers that have potentials. And I believe it’s going to be the best of Philippine swimming.”
Deiparine’s love for his motherland has never waned despite living most of his life in the United States.
And he’s using the sport to reconnect with his roots and, at the same time, help Philippine swimming rediscover its lost glory.